A Rift in Oregon

Kenji Sugahara

Jason Evans recently wrote an eloquent piece entitled "Simply My Opinion." He says that there is no compromise nor any middle ground. There are no discussions on any issue. However, yesterday, I had a wonderful debate with Brett Mersereau regarding my Gas=Crack post. I was impressed with his research and his thoughtfulness. We agreed on some issues, but we respectfully disagreed on others. We understood that our arguments weren't personal.

However, there are many individuals who don't want to find common ground, take disagreement as a personal affront, want to further polarize the state, want to devalue moderates, and don't want to engage in thoughtful, rational debate.

For example, Ted Piccolo, an activist, says the path to victory for a Republican lies not in moving to the ideological center but in becoming more conservative. Otherwise, he said, “you lose the broken-glass Republicans, the people who will crawl over broken glass for you.” Fickle Oregon voters take Republicans on a wild ride, Portland Tribune, 11/8/02

Larry George, exeucutive director of Oregonians in Action says “When someone says they’re a moderate, it means they’re going to listen to whatever a special interest will tell them to do. I don’t want to say they’re for sale, but they’re for sale. The people who should be celebrated are the people who take strong philosophical stands.” Fickle Oregon voters take Republicans on a wild ride, Portland Tribune, 11/8/02

There are the individuals that we need to engage or make a good faith attempt to engage. These are the folks that bask in our divisions. They want to accentuate our differences.

How do we counter these types of individuals? Through discussion and education, just as people did at the Engage Oregon Conference. The One True b!X even made a blog entry about it. We can do it through thoughtful discussion just as Brett and I had. We can do it by celebrating what we have in common instead of highlighting our differences.

A few months ago I wrote a guest opinion in the Statesman Journal in Salem regarding gay marriage. In response, I received a rather harsh e-mail. Instead of firing off a nasty-gram, I thought to engage him in dialogue. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the following response:

Thank you for responding to my response and listing your sources. I do agree that the more dialogue there is about and issue the better. Now if the Multnomah County Commissioners had agreed to that we might not have the circus we have up there and this might be a less heated issue! I'm sorry for my unfortunate choice of words regarding interracial marriage. What I was thinking was that the argument against interracial marriage was ignorant, but I guess an idea isn't ignorant, only people are. Poor choice of words on my part...I certainly wasn't calling you or anyone else in particular ignorant. What I meant to say was it was a bankrupt idea. I wholeheartedly agree with your priorities. Who wouldn't want these things in our society. What a world we would have if all these things were fully taking place.

It goes to show that we can really talk about issues without resorting to division and vitriol. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

As John Kerry said, we need to highlight our shared values:

"We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the true face of America. Not narrow appeals that divide us, but shared values that unite us. Family and faith. Hard work and responsibility. Opportunity for all – so that every child, every parent, every worker has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential."

This may be considered touchy feely, but they are concepts that need to be appreciated and shared.

  • brett (unverified)

    Kenji, thanks for the shout-out. Couldn't agree with you more. Glad we could agree to disagree amicably.

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    Kenji, I'm not sure I agree (or maybe I'm misunderstanding your point.)

    Yes, of course, we should be willing to disagree amicably. Yes, of course, we should engage in dialogue.

    But, I'm not sure that moderation in all things is a good thing. Like Ted Piccolo and Larry George (but from the other side), I think we should celebrate strong philosophical positions. Most of the great ideas are rooted in strong positions - not squishy compromises.

    For example... Senate Bill 100, Oregon's land-use and UGB law, was not some consensus moderate idea - it was a bold idea rooted in a strong philosophy of what kind of Oregon we want to live in. Its opponents tried repeatedly to stop it, repeal it, overturn it. Today, it's generally celebrated by all Oregonians (well, except Larry George and his ilk) and the poll numbers for UGBs are extraordinary. (Though still highly controversial in the other 49 states.)

    I think we should draw a distinction between being civil to each other and engaging in dialogue - and the idea that we should engage in constant state of compromise and consensus.

    If we're willing to compromise and the other "will crawl across broken glass", well, that's a sure fire way to lose. Just ask Tom Foley about Newt Gingrich.

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    But is compromise a bad thing? Sure, there are some issues that we should take a strong stand on but I think people can compromise on a lot of issues. Going in with the idea that only idea is correct leads to the massive chasms we see between people and parties. Part of coming up with a good compromise is to really think of novel solutions. Sometimes these solutions can benefit both sides, and bring people closer together. To take a firm stand without listening and appreciating the other side is very dangerous. I call it the "blind faith" syndrome. There's no arguing with the other side.

    I have to disagree with you on Senate Bill 100. A review of the history of the DLCD reveals that there was compromise.

    McCall campaigned across the state gaining public and media support to counter the opposition. Senate Bill 100 was approved after much negotiation and compromise and was signed by Gov. McCall on May 29, 1973. SB 100 created the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) and the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). Senate Bill 101 created statewide protections for farmland. LCDC's first major task was to adopt 14 statewide planning goals to govern local land use plans.

    If we're willing to compromise and the other "will crawl across broken glass," then that is that really compromise? Wouldn't that be us compromising 100% and them compromising 0%? As said above, there will always be situations where there can't be compromise, but at the same time, we have to respect the others' opinions.

  • Jason Evans (unverified)

    Thanks to you, Kenji. The sharing of opinions for consideration and dialogue has been lost to the fear that merely listening to a differnt thought will somehow lead to a mortal breakdown of one's own beliefs and morality. It seems that many are wholy threatened by that which they don't understand. Their reactions are horribly simplistic, rediculously judgemental and extremely dangerous.

    My opinions, like my "marriage", have no impact on anyone what so ever. They simply are there, as are all other opinions which would disagree with me. As with some who disagreed with my post, it seems that opinions are suddenly to be argued as factual statements which must be proven or disproven. Those arguments are circular and will never reach resolution, because opinions are individual and subject to change. Facts are not. THAT is why discourse, dialogue and research are vital if we are to make rational decisions regarding our future leaders. We take bits and pieces of opinion that we like, match them to truths which we know and can support, and form new opinions and learn from others.

    Imagine, all the people....

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